Getting strong and toned doesn’t just mean completing a range of resisted exercises; there are certain slight adaptations you can make to your strength training session that will ensure that you get the most out of every repetition and see even better results. Here are Freeletics Training Expert John Kennedy’s top three tips for optimizing your strength sessions.
Technique #1: Go Slow
This first technique is about increasing time under tension (TUT). Certain Freeletics exercises should be completed with a slow pace for good reason. Every repetition of an exercise has a concentric phase (when the muscle shortens) and an eccentric phase (when the muscle lengthens). Both phases together constitute the time under tension (TUT) - the time for which a muscle has to actively resist forces. TUT is measured in seconds during a single repetition.
Slow eccentric phases in particularly have been proven to stimulate muscle growth and blood flow to the muscle - also known as the pump. To put this into practice, emphasize the lowering phase of your next exercise. Lift the weight up and slowly bring it back down again for a 5 second count. Hold the stretched position at the bottom for 2 seconds before you repeat. Going slow will make your muscle fibers stronger, more resilient and, ultimately, bigger.
Technique #2: Rest, Pause, Repeat
The second technique allows you to squeeze out a few extra reps during your last set. More repetitions means more volume and thus more muscle growth.
After your last set you take a short rest. Pause for around 15 seconds, allowing yourself to recover just slightly. This is called a “rest pause”. Then, pick up the same weight and perform a couple of more repetitions with good technique until you get close to failure. Rest pause again for 15 seconds and pump out a few more repetitions with good form.
Technique #3: Double Drop Set
This final technique also boosts your training volume and thus your muscle growth and is similar to the “Rest, Pause, Repeat” technique. The difference with the “Double Drop Set” is that now you reduce the amount of weight on the bar.
After finishing your last set, reduce the weight on the barbell by 25-40% and perform another set. After that, immediately decrease the weight again by 25-40% and pump out another round. The aim is to increase the repetitions each round whilst decreasing the weight.
Putting these techniques into practice
Let’s choose one of our classic hypertrophy intervals to give you an example of how this works. The interval asks you to do 10 bicep curls for 3 rounds with 45 seconds rest. Perform the first two sets as usual, then, for the third set, choose one of the three above techniques:
- Go Slow: Perform every repetition with a 5 second eccentric and a 2 second hold in the stretched position. Extending the arms should take you 5 seconds. Hold the weight for 2 seconds at the bottom before you curl again. Do this for only one round.
- Rest, Pause, Repeat: Perform the third set as usual. Put the barbell down and rest for 15 seconds. Go for another round of bicep curls, aiming for only 6 repetitions this time. Take another break for 15 seconds and perform one last round of only 3-4 reps. One round of this is enough to pump your muscles.
- Double Drop Set: Perform the third set as usual. Set the barbell down and immediately reduce the weight by 25-40%, perhaps using a lighter barbell. Aim for 12 repetitions this time. Reduce the weight again by 25-40% and curl for a third round of 15 repetitions.
Pick one exercise or body part you want to focus on and challenge yourself with one of these techniques. Use these for only one round in the beginning, as the muscle soreness might catch you off guard. By applying any one of these techniques in the long term, your muscles will hurt, but the strength and size improvements will be more than worth it.